Update: According to the latest news stories, the leader of the coup was chosen not because he is expected to get tough on the Muslim insurgency, but to pull a Kofi and negotiate with it (hat tip: LGF):
[Army commander Gen.] Sondhi [Boonyaratkalin], who is known to be close to Thailand’s revered constitutional monarch, will serve as acting prime minister, army spokesman Col. Akarat Chitroj said. Sondhi, well-regarded within the military, is a Muslim in this Buddhist-dominated nation.
Sondhi, 59, was selected last year to head the army partly because it was felt he could better deal with the Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand, where 1,700 people have been killed since 2004. Recently, Sondhi urged negotiations with the separatists in contrast to Thaksin’s hard-fisted approach. Many analysts have said that with Thaksin in power, peace in the south was unlikely.
It looks like a military coup might be underway in Thailand. According to CTV:
Thailand’s prime minister has declared a “severe” state of emergency after rumours of a military coup swept the capital and tanks reportedly took position outside government headquarters.
“I declare Bangkok under a severe state of emergency,” Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in a message broadcast on army-owned TV station Channel 5.
Reports say more than 10 tanks blocked roads around the government headquarters, as Army television broadcast images of the royal family and songs associated in the past with military coups.
Shinawatra said he was ordering the transfer of the country’s army chief to work in the prime minister’s office — effectively suspending him from his military duties.
The prime minister is in the middle of a political crisis as a street campaign is calling for him to step down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
He has indicated he may step down as leader of the country after upcoming elections, but said for now he will stay at his party’s helm.
Prime Minister Thaksin has had problems in the past with accusations of corruption, and has been blamed for his failure to put down the Islamic terror insurgency in the south of the country. Earlier this year he faced the rumblings of a “people power” movement designed to force him to resign.
Massive rallies earlier this year forced Thaksin to dissolve Parliament and call for a snap election in April.
The poll was boycotted by opposition parties and later annulled by Thailand’s top courts, leaving the country without a working legislature.
New elections are scheduled for Oct. 15 but are likely to be postponed until at least November.
We’ll be watching the developments on this one.
Hat tip: Wally Ballou.